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Chinatown Movie, Term Paper Example

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Term Paper

The theme of the movie “Chinatown” (Polanski) is the dishonesty of the authority figures. The movie suggests that it is pointless to fight against injustice when its root is at the highest levels of the society. The title “Chinatown” suggest this because throughout the movie, the “Chinatown” neighborhood is brought in the attention of the audience as a place where the police officers’ interventions often worsen the situation of the ordinary people instead of improving it. Cross’s declaration, “you may think you know what you’re dealing with, but believe me you don’t” and Gittes’ answer that it is the same thing that the district attorney used to tell to him in Chinatown support the theme of the movie. Cross is a powerful man in the city and Gittes is an ordinary man, though his role is that of investigating a murder. Gittes’ answer seems obscure in the scene from the club. It is only at the end that the true meaning of the scene is revealed. The association with Chinatown in fact predicts the events that would follow: the innocents will suffer while the guilty will remain unstained and unharmed.

The movie Chinatown is a new-noir depicting Gittes’ investigation of a murder. The events occur in chronological order, as Gittes discovers step by step the motives of the murder and who is behind it. There are no flashbacks in the movie because the story is told from Gittes’ perspective. Gittes does not know anything about the situation, everything is new to him as it is to the audience, so there can be no flashbacks because there is nothing to remember. The investigation is merely a pretext for the exploration of a much more complex topic, the struggle of the water rights, a real event which occurred in the 1920s California. The movie however proposes a theory of conspiracy involving the founders of the city themselves. This emerges in the narrative first as a side issue, only to become the main issue towards the ending, shifting the audience’s attention from the murder to more important problems.

Jack Nicholson’s performance in Chinatown” is very realistic, particularly since he portrays  a man who is not actually a hero and he does not claim to be one. He sometimes commits mistakes and even errors of judgment, just as people do in reality. However, in the case of other characters, such as Mrs. Mulrway, the acting may be considered mannered. Mrs. Mulwray is a femme fatale, therefore, she is mysterious and her integrity is doubtful. Her mannered acting is meant to create doubt concerning her role in the story. Also, this character is dynamic because in the beginning, she is aggressive towards Gittes but she starts to feel attracted to him as the story progresses.  In the same time, Gittes is a static character because he is much as an observer, he does not actually get involved in the story, but rather, observes everything while remaining at a cynical distance even from his lover.

As in any noir movie, lightening is the most important aspect of cinematography in “Chinatown”’. By using low-key lightning and naturally dark, the movie establishes a certain mood for the movie. There are many scenes in the movie that tale place in the darkness, all involving Gittes’ investigation. Also, Venetian blinds are present in Gittes’ office, creating shadows on Gittes and the objects in his office, and enhancing the mystery of the scenes that take place in his office, a location in which Gittes discovers clues for his investigation, or meets people that are important for the story. Also important is the photography, which also reflects the noir aestetics but also Roman Polanski’s genius.  For example, the beach scene, when Gittes is sitting on the ground,with his face towards the ocean and admiring the sunset is simply perfect. Also, the desert scene with the boy riding the donkey seems to be a painting due to the beautiful bright color of the background.  This idyllic image contrasts with the dark closed spaces in the urban environment. Also, the images from Chinatown at the end of the movie are very interesting. Chinatown at night is lightened brightly, contrast with the movie’s tragic ending.

Polanski makes use of long-shots to suggest the condition of being watched. For example, when Gittes watches Mr. Mulwray on the beach, the long shot of Mulwray suggests that he is seen from distance by Gittes. The author then cuts to an extremely long shot, Mulrawy becoming a silhouette next to the ocean. Point of view shots are also used in the conversations between Gittes and Mr. Mulwray. The two characters usually sit at a table (the scene from Mrs. Mulwray’s home, the scene in the restaurant) and the camera is positioned over the characters shoulders, suggesting that he is watching. One of the most interesting scenes in the movie regarding editing is its use of the scene when Gittes is beaten and he passes out. In this scene, the image fades out as he passes out and then fades in again as he wakes up to see Mrs. Mulwray standing in front of vhim. Also, the image is blurred in the beginning and becomes clear as Gittes completely regains consciousness.

One of the most inspired aspects of the movie is the choice of locations. The beautiful images from the ocean shore and from the Owens Valley, the Mar Vista Rest Home, and other such inspired location in and out L.A. add quality to the movie. Also, the costumes used by the characters, and particularly by Mrs. Mulwray are representative for the noir genre. Mrs. Mulwray, a true femme fatale uses elegant and feminine outfits, accessorized with hats that sometimes obscure her gaze and discrete jewelry. The other characters’ costumes also reflect their personalities and occupations.

Though the entire movie bears Polanski’s signature, there are certain scenes which reflect his style in particular. For example, the visual style of the movie is specific for this director. The perfect sunset images, the lightning in the offices and the impeccable choice of settings are part of Polanski’s commitment to qualitative cinematography. There are certain scenes that reflect his style. For example, the end of the movie, with Mrs. Mulwray’s death is characteristic for Polanski because he does not spear the audience despite the fact that she was a main character and the audience must have become sympathetic of her. Her dead is shockingly realistic and  may be compared with the killing scenes from “Macbeth”(1971),

The narrative of the film is never empty or events or too crowded. It contains the perfect doze of suspense and mystery that characterize a good noir film. I enjoyed the movie due to quality of the cinematography and the complexity of the plot. Moreover both the main actors and the supporting actors did an amazing job while portraying their characters. However, while the story was very beautiful, the unexpected ending was a little disappointing. Although the entire movie was constructed in such a way as to lead to this point ( the references to Chinatown and Gittes incapacity to save anyone there, the scene from the car in which Mrs. Mulwray’s movement seems to anticipate her death), all viewers hope for a happy ending that would reassure them of the fact that good always fights off evil and that the main characters with whom the audience identified during the movie will live happily ever after.

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